Essential Dough

So this is one of my favorite weeks of the year, Christmas vacation week. Don’t get me wrong I love my job but I also love when I have a little extra time with Ellie and my family.

I was thinking of a fun activity to do with her the other day and thought why not try some play dough. Ellie is just starting to get the concept of helping in the kitchen. Her attention span is short but she loves to feel like she is helping. As with every one year old, everything is new and exciting.

I set to work creating some play dough with her. I know their are many recipes out there. Some involve cooking, some use extra ingredients and some are no cook. I chose to use this recipe with Ellie because I also use it in my classroom and like how it turns out. It is super simple to make. My students have made this before without much help from me other than a recipe. I also love the ingredients in this recipe because they are all totally safe to use with a one year old. If she gets any of these ingredients in her mouth I don’t need to panic.

As you can see, cooking with a one year old means things will get messy so having safe ingredients are so important to me.

I love the flexibility of this recipe. As Eliana and I were creating our dough, I think more flour may have landed on the table than in the bowl. Flour and salt were flying everywhere as she mastered the skill of dumping new ingredients into a bowl. This was easy to fix though because I just kept going with the recipe and then stirred it altogether. Afterwards I added more flour and more salt a bit at a time until we had the consistency we wanted for the dough.

Now you may be wondering why I call this essential dough. The word essential came from the use of essential oils in the dough. We have been using essential oils in my family for a little over a year and they are really great at supporting our overall wellness. Eliana has been battling an ear infection the past couple of days so she has been understandably cranky. Lavendar oil works like a charm on her when she is a bit cranky and needs to calm down. So why not incorporate some calmness into our play?

For our dough today I chose to add lavender oil and lemon oil (I love the smell of lemon oil plus it has so many other benefits… I encourage you to google it, actually while you are at it google both lavender and lemon oil). There are many other oils I could use and probably will try out in the future. Since I was doing this with such a little one I wanted to use vitality oils. Vitality Oils are Young Living’s oils that are safe if ingested. They are approved for internal use although I choose not to use them on Ellie that way.

If you are not already using oils and would like to start I would love to help you get started. You can click here to learn more about getting started with oils or you can click here if you want to purchase a specific oil.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbs Vegetable Oil
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Measuring Tools
  • 2-4 drops Vitality Essential Oils ( Optional): I use Young Living Essential Oils because I know they are pure and trust them near my little ones hands. I also know that their vitality line is safe if my little one gets a bit of dough in her mouth with oils on it.
  • If you want colored dough you can use Kool Aid packets. These also add a yummy smell and aren’t dangourous if they make it into the mouths of little ones.

Directions: Pour all ingredients into the a mixing bowl and stir together. You may find that it is too gooey when you first mix the ingredients together; if that happens then slowly mix in a little more flour and a little more salt until you have the doughy consistency you want. That’s it friends, it really is that simply. I store the finished dough in plastic sandwich bags.

Areas of Early Childhood Development Supported by this Activity

  • Fine Motor: Fine motor skills for early child development focus on how children are able to manipulate objects around them by controlling the muscles in their hands and by using hand eye coordination. This activity encourages fine motor skills by having young ones practice dumping, stirring and mixing ingredients. It also supports them by having them manipulate the dough to create different things. I love how this activity naturally differentiates itself for different ages because depending on their development they may be mastering different fine motor skills when manipulating the essential dough.
  • Cognitive Development: This domain of early child development is focused on understanding logic, reasoning, cause and effect as well as early math skills. The process of making essential dough and playing with it helps little ones develop cognitively because they are practicing cause and effect. For example, what is the effect when ingredients are poured into the bowl. I built in early math skills with this activity as well by counting with Eliana as we added each ingredient to the bowl. For instance instead of using a one cup measure I used a quarter cup measure and as we added each quarter cup we counted 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • Social Emotional Development: Social emotional development focuses on how we interact with each other. This activity supports social emotional development by encouraging teamwork and turn taking as we work together to create something new.

I hope you 💕 this recipe as much as I do. More importantly I hope you and your family have a fun time together making it. Let me know what you thought about it below in the comments and if you enjoyed it please use our share buttons to help out your friends with some family fun.

Affording the Mouse

(Hint: We flew free)

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Hey there! I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite family activities….traveling. There is something about getting away that is just so refreshing for the soul. Even having something booked on the calendar in the future seems to lift my spirits and carry me through the harder moments of life. The only problem with my love of travel is that it is expensive.

When my baby girl was almost a year old I felt the itch, no the desperate need to get away. I wanted some family time that moved me out of the ordinary day in and day out routine. As any parent knows adjusting to parenthood is a lot even when you totally love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. I needed something fun to look forward to and to feel like I was working towards an exciting purpose other than the daily bills and life expenses.

    I let my mind wander about where to go. So many thoughts came to mind. Do we head for the Caribbean? How about the Grand Canyon? Maybe we could go to Europe? Yellowstone sounds cool….After many ideas of where to go my husband and I finally decided on Disney World. I know, you either love Disney or hate it. If you are a person that is not a Disney fan your probably thinking why on Earth would you choose to go there out of all places?  You may also be thinking your baby won’t even remember.

While I totally understand why you think my choice may be crazy just hear me out. Disney World has this amazing system called Disney’s Magical Express where they pick you and all of your bags up at the airport. I mean this alone is heaven to a new mom’s ears. Trying to travel with a one year old is enough work without having to deal with luggage and going from place to place. Disney’s transportation system and generally everything being in one area made things much easier for a mom with a little one. They also have lots of family rides that Ellie could enjoy right along side my husband and I.

I booked the trip knowing Ellie wouldn’t remember it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it had value to her. One of the best things you can do for a child, even from birth, is to expose them to different things and different people. There were so many new experiences for Ellie to take in. Different noises, sights, smells, and people. The most brain development occurs from ages 0-5. Their little minds are making constant connections even though their long term memory may not be fully developed. Even though Ellie won’t remember this trip when she is older (I fully intend to bring her again) I truly believe the more we can expose kids to different experiences the better off they are.

Now anyone that know me knows I do not like to spend money. I tend to air on the side of caution with all things financial. This is a problem when it comes to loving travel. Travel and not spending money do not go hand in hand. So I am always looking for the best way to get the most out of my money. Disney is usually crazy expensive. However, one of the reasons I picked it was because it was one of the most affordable options for us. As a military family Disney offers great promotions. In addition I managed to get my families flights for free. Yes, you read that correct we flew down their for free. My total cost for a 9 night 10 day trip to Disney World was only about $2,000 (with spending money) for my husband, myself and my one year old.  Here is the breakdown of how we did that:

  • Flight Cost: $0- That’s right our flight was completely free. I signed up for the Southwest Credit Card knowing that I would be going to Disney in a couple of months. I received a large sign up bonus after spending $2,000 on the card. This was easy to do because I just used the card to pay for other trip expenses and used it to pay for my daughter’s daycare. The key here is planning to pay it off as soon as you use it because it has a high APR. However, if you are smart in the way you use it you can enjoy the travel perks without paying interest as long as you pay it off each month; that’s how I use it. My husband and I flew for free using some of my bonus points. My daughter also flew for free as a lap baby because she was under the age of 2. Even after booking our non-stop flights we still had over 20,000 points lefts for future travel.

  • Room Cost= About $500- We stayed at Disney’s All Stars Music Resort. The All Stars are Disney’s Value resorts. If you are a military family you can get a discount around 30% by calling Disney directly and asking for the military discount. Our room cost was also less expensive because we chose to share a room with my sister and her son. We split the cost and were able to share our discount with them. It was a win win for both of us and if you have someone that would be willing to split a room with you it can be a great way to save. If my sister didn’t come it would have still been very affordable but I would have gone for less nights to decrease the cost.

  • Ticket Cost= $286 per ticket for a total of $572: Only Omar (my husband) and I needed tickets to the park. Since Ellie was under two she is free everywhere in Disney even at the buffets or restaurants (as long as she shares a plate)!  We bought the five day park hopper plus military salute tickets. This package gave us 5 days worth of entries to the four theme parks and 5 days of entries to the water parks. If you are military family, I highly suggest this deal. Also, if you travel with a military family they can usually get extra tickets at this pricing (up to six people in a party). So I was able to get my sister and nephew tickets for the same price since they flew with us.
  • Food and Shopping: We spent about $100 a day on food and shopping. Over the time we were there our spending totaled to about $900. We were conservative but still enjoyed ourselves. We did a combination of quick service restaurants and sit down restaurants. Let me know in the comments if you want some suggestions for great restaurant deals in Disney.

I realize some of these deals are only helpful to you if you are a military family. However, I highly recommend going for a free flight. Anyone can take advantage of the Southwest Credit Card promotion and it will knock hundreds off of your vacation cost.

Have you been to Disney? Have you found ways to save? Do you have questions for me about my experience. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Area Method for Multiplication


One my favorite methods for teaching multi-digit multiplication is known as the area method. I did not always use this method in my classroom but when I came across it years ago I started using it. I can tell you from my experience in the classroom that kids get this method so much better than the traditional method that most of us learned in school.

The main difference between the area method and the traditional algorithm is that the problem is set up differently. Most kids have an easier time visually following the area method over the traditional method. They can focus on the problem one step at a time. It is also a great strategy because it encourages mental math and understanding how numbers work.

Here is my video on how to solve a problem using Area Method:

Area Method is a great stepping stone to traditional multi-digit multiplication and other methods. Usually after kids are successfully multiplying with the area method I will teach them the traditional method. I also love to teach the lattice method. Once my kids can use all three strategies I usually have them pick the one they like to use best when solving problems.

Sometimes I will have students pick two strategies when solving a problem. This is great for kids that frequently make computational errors because it helps them improve their accuracy. If they find that they are getting two different answers then they know they made a mistake somewhere along the way. This usually prompts them to go back and check their work.

I frequently hear from parents that they don’t want to confuse their children by teaching them a different way. Strong math students are able to think flexibly about a math problem and use many different strategies to find a solution. Teaching your child different ways to solve math problems is valuable. Even if it seems like it is confusing them at first, in the long run it is to their benefit to be able to think flexibly about math. I like to think of math instruction as building a mental toolbox of different strategies that kids can use to aid in their success.

I encourage you to give the area method a try with your kiddo. I hope you find this method as beneficial as I have found it to be. Share your thoughts about this method below in the comments and subscribe to the blog for more educational videos.